Warner Bros and DC Kids new YouTube channel (Toy Giveaway!)

The other day my brother asked if he could be the one to introduce Talitha to superheroes. We spent many a Saturday morning watching Batman and, though he was far more into the comic book thing than I (his copies are probably still kept in plastic), DC characters are a big part of our shared childhood. I know there’s a saying that no child remembers the days the spent watching TV but, actually, those were some really good times for us! And he now works in video editing so maybe it was a bit educational, ha!

WB Kids and DC Kids have launched new YouTube channels, including favourites like Batman Unlimited, DC Super Friends and Scooby Doo. Subscribe if you want to keep up with new videos they’re adding over the year. Talitha is still really sensitive to even mild peril at four so I think we’ll be holding back (or vetting carefully) for now but she’s getting interested in superheroes so funny shorts like this one are just the thing:

Warner Bros are also giving away a mystery toy gift basket worth £40. Use the Rafflecopter widget below to enter.

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Brought to you by Warner Bros


What we’ve been watching on Netflix – Rudderless and other loves

I mentioned last week that Laurence is working in London so I’m flying solo during the week. It’s definitely been tougher than I expected – a lot of adjusting, a lot of facing things in myself that I need to work on and a lot for the kids to cope with. BUT…I get to watch whatever I want to watch on TV. There is, my friends, a bright side to everything.

I’ve also just been invited to join the Netflix stream team. They’re giving me a subscription and some other perks in exchange for chatting about what I watch.

So here’s what I’ve been watching.

I actually haven’t looked at loads because I get a bit overwhelmed with choice whenever I turn Netflix on. There is just so much on there! That, and with Laurence not here, I actually have less time to sit down and watch anything than I would if he were. Go figure. I won’t mention everything I’ve watched, though. Just the highlights.

rudderless

The standout film for me has been Rudderless. It’s an indie film about a father (Billy Crudup) whose adult son tragically dies. He moves through grief by playing his son’s songs and passing them off as his own. He finds himself living on his son’s music and discovers in it an unlikely link back to life in this raw, gently paced story of transformation.

Rudderless is at once heartbreaking, shocking and desperately beautiful. It asks questions about how we pick apart this kind of experience, whether it’s really possible to move on.

It was the first time I’d seen Anton Yelchin in a serious dramatic role and I’d definitely like to check out more of his work. He’s perfect in this. To be honest, they all are.

Needless to say, I will be watching it again and making Laurence watch with me one of the weekends he’s back.

love and other impossible pursuits

Another film I’m glad I saw was Love and Other Impossible Pursuits. I don’t know why I keep watching sad films. Hurt so good, maybe?

In this film, Natalie Portman plays a mother whose three-day-old baby dies of SIDS. The film focuses in on her relationship with her eight-year-old stepson, tense but touching.

Considering the plot’s anchor in a parent’s worst nightmare, Love and Other Impossible Pursuits is surprisingly uplifting and, at times, gently humourous. I’d be well up for reading the novel it’s based on.

grace and frankie

I’m also a few episodes into Grace and Frankie, a Netflix original series about two middle aged women, polar opposites, whose husbands leave them – to marry each other. It’s funny and thought-provoking (Lily Tomlin is fantastic in this!) but I’m not sure it’s grabbed me enough to continue so I’ll probably delve into something else though I might be back.

On to what Talitha’s been watching.

I was really excited about introducing Talitha to a childhood favourite Care Bears until I saw the 3D and realised they’d only gone and changed it in the past 20-something years! I’m not sure how I feel about that and I haven’t had time to explore it because she got scared of the baddie pretty much right away. She’s still not good with the mildest suspense, which rules out most of what’s available on Netflix!

Barney-and-Friends

In the end, she’s mainly watched Peppa Pig and Barney and Friends. I used to love Barney – until I got old enough to realise it was annoying! But now I love how much she loves it so it’s totally changed my perspective on it. Innocent, fun, educational, NOT AT ALL SCARY – what’s not to like? I’m amused by how delightfully retro it is and that that doesn’t bother her at all – got that, weird 3D Care Bears?!

Do you have Netflix? Any suggestions for TV series I should give a go?


“We need to save the rhinos!” – National Geographic Kids iPad edition

A few days ago, while Talitha and I were making supper, she suddenly said: “Mummy, we need to save the rhinos! People are trying to kill them because they want their horns and that is very bad.” I was surprised, to say the least. “Where did you hear about that?” I asked. She sighed with all the exasperation an almost four-year-old can muster. “It was in the iPad game we were playing the other day.”

national geographic kids ipad edition-4

The “game” she was talking about was the iPad edition of National Geographic Kids UK magazine. It’s interactive enough that I could see why she called it that. The iPad edition includes videos, sounds and games. Many of the pages include sound effects like animals noises, with touchable features to reveal information.

Honestly, I thought it would be a bit old for Talitha but she was absolutely gripped and insisted we read the whole thing together. She’s not reading independently yet so it wasn’t really something she could get the most out of without me but it made for a lovely time together in our reading nook, while her little sister napped.

national geographic kids ipad edition-3

Another time (after the rhino talk), she looked through it on her own and I heard her talking to herself, surprising me with how much she remembered from us looking through it. It’s got us talking about a lot of issues I’d previously assumed she was a bit young to understand. I obviously misjudged because she’s been very interested, asking pretty insightful questions about conservation and recycling. I’ve learned quite a bit from it too!

national geographic kids ipad edition-2

I have previously preferred traditional magazines to app versions but I can really see how it works here. The presentation is cleaner and more engaging, she’s able to look at it if we’re on the go and haven’t thought to bring a magazine (on a train journey for example) and she can look at it without much input from us or it’s something we can look at together.

The only downsides are that the iPad edition is not as intuitive as I’d expect it to be so some things didn’t do what we thought they would but this really was a minor point. As a starting point for exploring topics, it’s another useful tool in the box.

national geographic kids ipad edition-5

The National Geographic Kids UK app gives a 12-month subscription to the digital edition and is currently available for £20 on the NG Kids website.


ASUS MEMO Pad 7 ME176 – review

In the absence of laptops, we’d been thinking for a while that it might be useful to get another portable device.

Laurence sometimes takes the iPad for work and I like to sit on the sofa and get a bit of writing in if Talitha is watching TV in the afternoon and Ophelia is napping. We also quickly watch little videos on a device together, especially when we’re trying to find the answer to something.

Talitha has a few educational games she likes to play and while she’s pretty good at handling the mouse, a touch screen is, naturally, easier for her to manipulate.

asus memo pad 7

We were offered the ASUS MEMO Pad 7 ME176 to review and figured it could be a solution.

On first impressions, it’s light, an easy size for Talitha to operate but big enough for my purposes too. I love the vibrant colour and it seems really sturdy and well-made as far as I can tell. This is going by looks and feel, of course. I’m not about to drop the thing. On purpose, anyway.

The battery life is much lower than our iPad Air. I didn’t time it but, surprised when it ran out, I looked around for reports online and a few noted a five-hour difference. That’s not a problem for our purposes. It’s just worth being aware of if you’re not used to it. You just want to charge it up before you hit, say, a transatlantic journey.

The touchscreen seems just as responsive as the iPad and it’s pretty intuitive to use, once you’ve had a little play.

asus memo pad 7-2

You can’t really compare the two, of course. The Memo Pad is a budget tablet, retailing at just £99. The price makes it attractive as a tablet for our whole family as it’ll hurt a bit less, should something happen to it.

I do love how easily it connects with all my Google products, a feature you don’t get with Apple.

I reckon that could make it a good option if you’re looking for a first tablet for your teen, for instance. Defo look at the parental control options, obviously. I need to put some safety features on our MEMO Pad but, I admit I haven’t got that far yet.

asus memo pad 7-3

What we’ve done so far:

Games: Annoyingly, it doesn’t support Flash so Talitha can’t play Reading Eggs, Maths Seeds or Teach your monster to read on it (firm favourites here) but she has played games on the CBeebies app with no problem.

Video & Music: We’ve watched YouTube videos and Alphablocks clips. The quality is decent and the size perfect for quickly grabbing and dipping in and out. The sound is slightly tinny to my ear but that hasn’t stopped me using it to practise for my a capella group.

Photographs: The camera is not as good as the one on my iPhone 5C so I won’t be relying on it but it’s fine for Talitha to take photos. I rather the kids don’t use my phone, anyway.

asus memo pad 7-4

Word processing: For writing notes and emails, it’s a much better option than my phone by virtue of size. I’d still like to get a laptop at some point but this will certainly do for now.

Reading: The MEMO Pad 7 is similar size to my Kindle and I’ve been happy to read blog posts on it. I doubt it would replace a Kindle for me but it’s a good option if you don’t already have a reader.

All in all, I think you get a lot for your £99 with this tablet. I’m not sure it completely fulfils our need (desire?) for another portable device but it fills the gap for now.


The open-air play

This weekend we ticked another one off our summer bucket list by going to see Alice in Wonderland at the Wild Place. It was a great setting for it because we got to walk around and see some of the animals before setting up our picnic supper for the play.

Open air play (1 of 5)

It was the fourth play Talitha’s been to see and it’s just happened that my mother-in-law has either taken her or joined us each time. I have positive associations with my grandmother and trips to the theatre. I wonder if my girls will have the same.

Open air play (2 of 5)

I have to say I think the actors and audience were all pretty hardcore British about the weather as it rained off and on throughout the performance. I worried that this might be putting Talitha off as she sat rather solemnly throughout the whole thing. But she’s kept telling me: “The white rabbit man said, “I’m late, I’m late, I’m latey latey late!” She also asks when next we can go see a play. That makes sitting in the rain worth it to me!

Open air play (4 of 5)

I love that she’s getting to see real people taking up everyday objects and, essentially, imagining together. Even Ophelia was quite taken with the whole thing. For the first half she mostly sat up on her grandmum’s lap, taking in the strange sights and sounds. The second half she and I spent walking around for a jig to sleep – so, thank goodness it was an open-air play!

Open air play (5 of 5)

You taken your kids to anything like this?


Win a copy of Shaun the Sheep™ Shear Heat on DVD

Talitha and I have been loving watching Shaun the Sheep™ Shear Heat. It’s a series of ten short episodes of the well-loved British animation from the creators of Wallace and Gromit. It’s only just been released on DVD on July 21st.

Ophelia’s been enjoying watching us, probably curious about her three-year-old sister’s full-throated laughter. Shaun definitely hits a note with Talitha’s sense of humour.

There’s lots for me as an adult to appreciate. The detail that’s gone into this claymation surprises and delights, as usual.

It’s definitely pitched at a young child’s level, though. Common Sense Media rates it at age five, which feels about right. I tend to find that entertainment up to five is a good match for Talitha. She’s very sensitive to any sort of peril.

There were a couple of moments in the series where I needed to talk her through what was happening. Once when it looks like a man is coming after Shaun but he’s actually about to fix the farmer’s tractor then again when a grumpy bull is chasing the mischievous sheep.

Mind, I really don’t think most children would get antsy about these scenes but she gets very concerned about even mild danger so if you have a child who reacts similarly, it’s worth bearing in mind.

This didn’t mar her enjoyment of the DVD at all. In fact, she’s been chatting about it ever since. She wanted to know the names of the characters, so we looked them up online. She kept repeating that the dog was called Bitzer, so she’d remember it. She named the bull Frank – I guess so he’d be less scary.

Hilariously, she’s decided she wants Shaun to be a three-year-old girl sheep and for baby sheep Timmy to be Shaun’s baby sister! That must be the stamp of approval for Shaun the Sheep™ then!

STS Packshot

To win a copy of Shaun the Sheep™ Shear Heat tell me how your kids deal with peril in films and on TV and enter the Rafflecopter widget below.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Open to UK residents only.

Here’s the company blurb to clearer idea of what you’re in with a chance to win:

“From Aardman, the acclaimed creators of Wallace & Gromit, Shaun the Sheep™ Shear Heat follows Shaun and his pals as they get up to yet more mischief! Comprising of ten short episodes, viewers are welcomed back to Mossy Bottom Farm to follow Shaun, Bitzer and the rest of the gang as they embark on a series of fun-filled adventures. Including hilarious episodes such as Shaun the Fugitive, Bull Vs Wool and The Hang Glider, this animated series will keep the kids laughing all summer. As well as a range of exciting behind-the-scenes features, the DVD also includes the teaser trailer for Shaun the Sheep™ The Movie , which is being released on February 6th 2015, and an in-pack colouring sheet. Be sure to join in the fun this summer as Shaun the Sheep – Shear Heat OUT NOW on DVD.”

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Loquax


Mathseeds Review – Learning Maths with a 2.5-year-old

I first heard about Reading Eggs when I was stalking home education blogs for reading resources, more out of curiosity than anything else. Talitha was two-and-a-bit at the time and I felt a little weird about teaching her to read but she was clearly interested and it seemed counter intuitive to ignore and redirect that desire.

I wasn’t sure about using a computer game series, though, which Reading Eggs is. We’ve always agreed that we’d like her to have a low-media life in the majority so she could spend these crucial years learning through doing real things rather than attached to a screen.

With the caveat that we’d keep an eye on things and limit her use if necessary, I signed her up for a trial. She loved it and, to my amazement, was able to use the program so I ended up purchasing six months when she was two years and five months in November. We’re in a routine now of doing it a couple of times or so a week, which feels comfortable.

So, having had a positive experience with Reading Eggs so far, I agreed to review its sister program Mathseeds when the Reading Eggs company got in touch.

Mathseeds with a 2.5-year-old

At first I was frustrated that I couldn’t get it to work on any of my browsers! The company helpful with technical support, though, and we were soon up and running. I’m not sure why there was problem other than that the animations are more complex than the Reading Eggs ones and possibly more prone to hiccups. For some reason it seems to work a lot better on the iPad.

It’s all been smooth since then. So far everything seems pitched at a good level for Talitha. She’s currently two years and eight months. She doesn’t always understand the point of the games in the first go but that’s fine because I sit with her and can explain or demonstrate. She loves recognising the numbers and their corresponding words. She’s begun to recognise at a glance when there are four of something in a picture or when there’s an odd object in a group.

She sometimes gets a little carried away and wants to make up her own rules though! So, if she’s asked to put four dinosaurs in a jar and then the lid, she might want to only put one in or put them all in, even though she knows how many “four” means. She wants the game to move on so she’ll usually ask me to explain again what she needs to do.

She just isn’t ready for the “Memory” game where she has to turn over the cards and match them so we do it together and skip on to something else she can do. Some of the “Playroom” which is a section of games outside of the lessons involves mathematics too complex for her, which suits me fine because once she’s done a lesson, we move on to something “real-life” like her shape buttons or baking.

I’m always watching out for frustration or boredom as I’d rather she didn’t play it if it stresses her but it doesn’t seem to at all and she’s surprised me again and again with how much she’s learned from it so far.

Obviously, we’ve started a bit early. The age range for Mathseeds is 3 to 6 years. And I have a code for you! Enter “UKB26MST” for a 4-week extended trial.

Reading Eggs sent me a free, extended trial for the purposes of this post and I’ve reviewed it as honestly as possible.

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